Steve Musco

Heading into the weekend on a four-game unbeaten streak, the Yale men’s hockey team returns to the Whale after a month away to match up against Rensselaer and No. 11 Union.

The Bulldogs (5–2–2, 4–2–1 ECAC Hockey) dominated in New York last weekend. Seven different players found the back of the net, with forward Joe Snively ’19 now ranked ninth in the nation in points per game at 1.44. The Elis defeated St. Lawrence 5–3 last Friday before continuing with a 2–1 win against tough opponent No. 16 Clarkson 2–1 after a power play game winner in the second period from forward Dante Palecco ’21. Yale’s string of top-tier matchups will continue this weekend. Rensselaer (4–9–0, 3–3–0 ECAC) enters the rink on Friday off a pair of losses at Notre Dame but boasts impressive wins earlier in the season, including a pair of matches against No. 11 Union (8–3–2, 3–3–0 ECAC), who has not lost in the most recent three games. One unbeaten streak will snap on Saturday as both the Bulldogs and the Dutchmen look to extend their successes.

“We are all really looking forward to playing at home in front of our fans,” goalie Corbin Kaczperski ’20 said. “Our rink is one of the best to play at in college hockey, and we are happy to give our fans something to come watch again. As for Union, they’re a good team who works extremely hard. If we play our game for a full 60 minutes, I’m confident we can beat them this time around.”

Over the course of a century-long rivalry, RPI holds a 56–45–6 lead over Yale. Last year saw the Bulldogs split the pair against the Engineers. The Elis dropped the first game at Troy 2–1 before getting revenge with a lopsided 5–1 triumph at Ingalls Rink. The Bulldogs had a strong powerplay on the day and featured goals from Snively, Palecco, defender Charlie Curti ’19, forward Luke Stevens ’20 and forward Kevin O’Neil ’21, all of whom are in this year’s roster. In the last three games, the Elis have averaged over four goals per game, and on Friday, Yale will look to continue this offensive output.

Saturday’s game against Union marks the second time this season the Bulldogs face the Dutchmen. Just a few weeks prior, at the Friendship Four Tournament in Ireland, the two teams clashed on international ice, in a game that ended in a 1–1 overtime tie. The Dutchmen claimed a 2–1 shootout advantage and progressed to the finals, where they defeated Boston University to earn the Belpot Trophy.

“When we played Union in Ireland, our team felt pretty comfortable,” forward Mitchell Smith ’20 said. “We need to know that Union is a hard-nosed team that works really hard every single shift. If we come out every shift wanting to win every puck battle and win every race, we will do great against this team. The game will be a battle of hard work and passion, and I believe that is what Yale hockey is all about. We are all really excited to play Union again.”

Last year’s pair of games saw another split. The Bulldogs secured a 5–3 win at Union in December before the Dutchmen retaliated with a 3–2 victory at the Whale in January. Over the 27-year rivalry between the two schools, neither side owns an advantage as the series record sits at 26–26–6. Both teams enter Saturday’s match with eager anticipation for the tie to break in their favor.

The Dutchmen boast outstanding individual players who will test the Elis’ mettle. Forward Cole Maier was named ECAC Hockey’s Player of the Month in October after leading all conference skaters with 10 points notched in the month alone. Goaltender Darion Hanson won the ECAC Hockey’s Goalie of the Month award after leading the nation with a 0.972 save percentage and an average of 34.6 saves-per-game in November. The Bulldogs are not without offensive power, but they will need to demonstrate all-around rigor to claim the game.

“In the last 4 games we’ve been playing with a lot of confidence,” captain and defender Anthony Walsh ’19 said. “We are finally starting to come into our own as a group. This weekend is a huge chance to try and keep this momentum we’ve been building, to go and put on a better show for our home crowd than we did the last time we were here.”

The puck drops at 7 p.m. on Friday night against Rensselaer.

Lucy Liu | l.liu@yale.edu